By John Wilcockson

Moments before the start of stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California on Thursday morning, Lance Armstrong was waiting to be called to the line in Visalia. He had a moment for a quick conversation about Friday’s upcoming time trial in Solvang.

“So, Lance, you’ve got your stolen TT bike back. Will you be using it tomorrow?”

“No, that’s too risky. We don’t know what happened to it. So I’ll be riding the replacement.”

“Have you tested the new bike yet?”

“No, we’re driving down to Solvang tonight, it’s a two-hour drive. And we’ll ride the course in the morning, and test the bike.”

“So will you be going 100 percent in tomorrow’s stage?”

“Yeah, but that guy will still beat me by a minute.”

Armstrong was then introduced to the crowd: “The man who’s won the Tour de France seven times. The man who’s making a comeback to the sport at 37. Ladies and gentleman, Lance Armstrong!”

As the enthusiastic spectators roared a big Visalia greeting to Lance, he slowly rolled up to the line and joined “that guy,” the one he said will beat him by a minute in the 15-mile Solvang time trial, Levi Leipheimer.

In a Twitter.com comment after the stage, however, Armstrong indicated he had changed his mind about the bike. “And by the way, I’m riding the recovered (previously stolen) tt bike tomorrow. It seems to be in fine shape,” he wrote.